Teams from ESA, France’s space agency CNES and ArianeGroup successfully completed the disconnection and retraction of the Ariane 6 cryogenic systems on 30 January 2024.

These operations mark the start of dismantling the Ariane 6 test model to make way for its first launch. The combined test phase for Ariane 6 using propellants is now over and the European rocket is on track for its inaugural launch.

The test model that is on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, stands 62 m high. It is exactly the same as the ‘production model’ Ariane 6 rockets that will soon be launched, except that its boosters are not tested as part of the complete rocket.

For this test, the fuel lines for the upper stage and main stage were disconnected. The yellow arms support the fuel lines that deliver liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the upper stage that is powered by the Vinci orbital engine.

Instead of simply disconnecting the lines, the Ariane 6 teams approached the operations as more tests, or rehearsals, allowing the teams another chance to practice ahead of launch. Seconds before a liftoff, the cryogenic fuelling arms retract from the upper part of the rocket, removing the fuelling lines. The main stage is fuelled from the bottom of the rocket and these lines were also disconnected in the test.